Indore: 10,000 at beatification of Sr Rani Maria, including her reputed assassin

The Franciscan Poor Clare was stabbed to death in 1995. Her social work in favor of poor tribal had become uncomfortable for Hindu leaders. Her assassin Samunder Singh was forgiven by the martyr's family.


Indore (AsiaNews / Agencies) - About 10,000 people participated in the beatification ceremony of Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, the Franciscan Poor Clare assassinated in 1995 when she was stabbed 54 times in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Her assassin Samunder Singh, who later regretted the cruel gesture and was forgiven by the Blessed’s family was also among participants. He told Matters India: "I'm so happy that 'Didi' (older sister) has been recognized as a martyr."

The ceremony took place on November 4 in the courtyard of Indore's St. Paul Higher Secondary School and was chaired by Card. Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Card. Baselios Cleemis, President of the Indian Bishops' Conference, Card. George Alencherry, Head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Card. Oswald Gracias, President of the Latin Rite Conference concelebrated the Mass. The rite began at 10am (local time) with the reading of the papal announcement of beatification.

Yesterday, November 5, the Apostolic Nuncio Msgr. Giambattista Diquattro presided at a Mass in Suffrage on the grave of sister Rani Maria, at the Sacred Heart Church in Udainagar. Even Pope Francis during the Angelus recalled the Indian nun. "Sally Vattalil - said the pontiff - gave testimony to Christ in love and mildness, and joins the long line of martyrs of our time. Her sacrifice is a seed of faith and peace, especially in Indian land. She was so good that they called her 'the smiling sister".

Sister Rani Maria is the first woman martyr of India. Born in Kerala, the young nun had moved in the diocese of Indore (Madhya Pradesh) to work at the service of the local poor population, mostly tribal. The missionary dedicated her life in favor of the villagers, obtaining bank credit lines and tax breaks for the cultivation of land. She created support groups for women and also helped in the most strenuous jobs, such as building a well for clean water to drink and irrigate their fields.

Her social work became  "inconvenient" for the Hindu village heads, who previously held the tribals in check by granting loans. If the farmers were not able to compensate them, they took possession of the crop and soil. The "official" credit obtained by Sister Rani Maria were an obstacle to businesses of Hindu leaders, who decided to foment and arming a poor Hindu, Samunder. He, sure of their support, murdered the nun in front of dozens of witnesses, while she was on a shuttle bus to her original home.

Immediately after the murder, however, the assassin  was abandoned by family and by those who had used it to eliminate the nun. The only one who has remained close was an Indian priest, Swamy Sadanand, who put him in contact with religious sister’s family. Speaking to AsiaNews sister Selmy Paul, the sister of martyr, told the story of her family and how the mercy of God has acted on her and her siblings to help seek a pardon for the murderer. Among those who immediately unconditionally welcomed the Hindu tribal poor was the missionary’s mother, who responded to the request to meet him with the words: "I would kiss his hands, and because they have the blood of my daughter."

During the Beatification ceremony, Samunder sat in the front row next to Sister Selmy Paul. He said he still felt the "weight of such a terrible crime" despite the forgiveness of the Blessed’s family. Then he added, "All the events that led to her martyrdom were the manifestation of God's will."

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